174 Old-time Schools and School-books
of the term the child who had carried the coin home the greatest number of times was given permanent possession. .
Once a week the school would choose sides for a spelling-match. This match took up half the afternoon and was frequently attended with efforts to defraud and exhibitions of envy. The side which spelled best was declared to have " beat " and usually manifested much triumph. The spelling-matches were also a common recreation of the winter evenings, and from time to time neighboring districts sent their champions to contend for orthographic honors in friendly combat. To these evening contests came not only the day pupils, but the older brothers and sisters and the rest of the community. Horace Greeley, when a tiny white-headed youngster of five or six years, had already become a famous speller, and had not an equal in his district. He was always the first one chosen at the spelling schools. Sometimes he fell asleep in his place before the evening was over and had to be nudged by his companions when his turn came. He would instantly be alert, spell his word, and then drop asleep again.
After the spelling came recitations of poetry, together with oratory and dialogues. The dialogues were inclined to buffoonery, but the oratory was entirely serious, though not infrequently it was high-flown to the point of grandiloquence. The speeches of the patriot leaders of the Revolution were always favorites, especially Patrick Henry's " Give me Liberty or Give me Death/'